11 August, Friday – On Privilege

Aug 11 – Memorial for St. Clare, virgin, religious founder

Clare (1194-1253) loved music and well-composed sermons. She was humble, merciful, charming, optimistic, and chivalrous. She would get up late at night to tuck in her sisters who’’d kicked off their covers. She daily meditated on the Passion. When she learned of the Franciscan martyrs in Morrocco in 1221, she tried to go there to give her own life for God, but was restrained. Once, when her convent was about to be attacked, she displayed the Sacrament in a monstrace at the convent gates and prayed before it. The attackers left.

Toward the end of her life, when she was too ill to attend Mass, an image of the service would be displayed on the wall of her cell; thus her patronage of television.

– Patron Saint Index

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Deuteronomy 4:32-40

Moses said to the people: ‘Put this question to the ages that are past, that went before you, from the time God created man on earth: Was there ever a word so majestic, from one end of heaven to the other? Was anything ever heard? Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God speaking from the heart of the fire, as you heard it, and remain alive? Has any god ventured to take to himself one nation from the midst of another by ordeals, signs, wonders, war with mighty hand and outstretched arm, by fearsome terrors – all this that the Lord your God did for you before your eyes in Egypt?

‘This he showed you so that you might know that the Lord is God indeed and that there is no other. He let you hear his voice out of heaven for your instruction; on earth he let you see his great fire, and from the heart of the fire you heard his word. Because he loved your fathers and chose their descendants after them, he brought you out from Egypt, openly showing his presence and his great power, driving out in front of you nations greater and more powerful than yourself, and brought you into their land to give it you for your heritage, as it is still today.

‘Understand this today, therefore, and take it to heart: the Lord is God indeed, in heaven above as on earth beneath, he and no other. Keep his laws and commandments as I give them to you today, so that you and your children may prosper and live long in the land that the Lord your God gives you for ever.’

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Matthew 16:24-28

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour. I tell you solemnly, there are some of these standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming with his kingdom.’

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“What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?”

‘Privilege’ has become a bit of a dirty word lately. It’s considered distasteful, crass even and has that whiff of taboo about it. Etymologically, its Latin root ‘privilegium’ means an ordinance or law that favors an individual or group above others. What that doesn’t spell out is that with privilege comes responsibility. Oftentimes, people who are privileged are loathed by others because they fail to exercise the responsibility and mindfulness that ought to accompany their higher station. “Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one entrusted with more” (Luke 12:48). But that’s not how things typically play out.

The idea that God singled out Israel as His most preferred nation has rubbed people the wrong way since the days of Moses. Moses tried to explain this to the Hebrews, that privilege and responsibilty had to go hand in hand. Much would be expected of them – “you must keep his statues and commandments…”. When it came to Jesus, this special disposition was offered to anyone who would answer God’s call; ‘salvation by faith’ for God’s new people. The privilege of faith still came with responsibilities though. Jesus commanded us to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Why? Because ‘resentment’ against God’s people is still prevalent today. No one likes the privileged. So bad behavior of any sort affects our Christian witness and hurts the credibility of our faith. God is the one who gets a bad rap when we, as Christians, abuse the privilege of our faith.

I used to take these things lightly. Everyone was behaving badly, so why not I, was my reasoning. Except that if everyone felt that way, our faith would have a sorry end. Christ tells us that we are to be ‘salt and light’, to pierce the darkness with our goodness. The only way to do so, would be to hold ourselves up to behavior worthy of the blood that has ransomed our lives. Even if we fail, at the very least, we tried. And we ought to keep trying. As children of God, it’s our filial duty to.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for God’s grace to help us live a life that is pleasing to Him.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who inspire us to be better versions of ourselves, who encourage us when we fail, and give us hope when we’re in despair.  

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